“Cherry eye” refers to the presence
of a red, round structure in the inside corner of the eye of a dog.
Dogs and cats have an upper and lower
eyelid like humans, but they also have a third eyelid, or nictitans, which
provides additional protection for the eye. The nictitans has a tear-producing
gland within it and normal remains hidden from view below the lower eyelid.
Cherry eye typically occurs in puppies
and is seen most frequently in Pugs, Boston Terriers, Cocker Spaniels and
Beagles. For reasons that are poorly understood, the gland of the
nictitans becomes inflamed and swollen and protrudes (or prolapses) out
from under the lower eyelid. Unfortunately, the gland often remains
swollen and permanently prolapsed despite medical treatment. The
disease can occur in one or both eyes.
Eye drops and ointments are often used
initially to try and shrink swelling and redness, but usually fail to resolve
the problem. If the gland remains prolapsed, surgery is recommended
to prevent damage to the gland and its ability to produce tears and to
prevent damage to the cornea (the clear covering of the eye).
Cherry Eye Surgery
Many different surgical procedures have
been developed to correct this problem. Early surgery simply removed
the affected gland. However, this often resulted in decreased tear
production and related eye problems and is no longer advocated.
Current techniques involve replacing and
tacking the gland back in its normal position. The most recent technique,
known as the “Pocket Technique”, sutures the gland into a pocket created
in the third eyelid. This procedure is associated with the lowest
rate of recurrence (less than 10%) and is the one I perform.
The procedure is performed under general
anesthesia, often at the time of spay or neuter. Pets typically go
home the same day. Aftercare involves applying eye ointment twice
daily and a protective collar to prevent scratching or rubbing of the eye
for 10 days.